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Local taekwondo students ready to compete in national championships

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Peak Perfomance student Whitney Gaines participates in kicking drills with the help of senior instructor Josh Holmes during the Peak Performance training camp in preparation for the 2011 AAU Taekwondo National Championship.
(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)

SIKESTON -- They have all experienced tough workouts before, but for students at Peak Performance Taekwondo in Sikeston their recent training camp pushed them even more.

Their extra training is welcomed however, as they are gearing up for the 2011 AAU Taekwondo National Championships in Austin, Texas starting on Monday and ending on July 2.

"We'll do forms, which is visualizing fighting different people," First year student Alan Lambel said. "We do a lot of kicking, ladders with leg weights and chest gear. It's really hard."

For a full week from June 13 through June 17, five of Peak Performance's students, along with one helper, trained for a solid two and a half hours for what will be their biggest tournament, and biggest stage, of the year.

"My biggest thing is that I want to make sure they are prepared," Peak Performance Senior Instructor Josh Holmes said. "This is our first year open, so we're available to go to Nationals so it's a big thing to get them to even qualify, much less place while we're there.

"I figured this training camp was the least I could do to help send them out there."

Their training involved everything from ladder drills similar to the NFL Combine, forms, which are a series of defending and attacking movements performed against imaginary opponents, from polishing their kicking attacks with help from Holmes, Assistant Instructor Patrick Murphy and a sparring mannequin.

"All of the sparring with leg weights and when we do ladders help us build up our cardio," first year National participant Whitney Gaines said. "The reaction drills build up our timing a lot. It's been hard but still fun."

Students wore full protective gear, the same as they would during the National Tournament, to fully enhance their experience as well as give them an idea of what to expect when in Austin.

There is expected to be over 2,500 participants.

"It's going to be awesome," Lambel said, who is making his first trip to Nationals. "There's going to be a lot of people there."

"If you make the class and the camp just like the competition, it's an easier transition," Holmes said. "If you make it intense and make it loud with noises in the background, it makes it a little better when they get there.

"When you walk into a stadium that has 10 rings running consecutively, it gets a little intimidating. Getting them to deal with the nerves here and making it as well as you can."

The five members who will make the trek to Nationals are Gaines, Lambel, Baden Hackworth, Steven Parker and Collin Murphy. As a courtesy to his fellow classmates as one of the more experienced members, Andrew Rodgers helped with the training.

Many of Holmes' students have already experienced some success in the district and state levels of competition.

The National Tournament will include one on one sparring which will be watched by three judges. Electronic scoring will be in place to help score the Olympic style sparring. Most divisions will have 30-40 students.

"If you lose your first match, you're out," Holmes said. "To win first, second or third, you have to win all the way to your last match."

Holmes himself will be competing in Austin. Not only does he view his participation as a learning tool for himself, but as a chance to continue to teach his students by example.

It's also Holmes' first time at the National Championships as a member of the Peak Performance association which has local affiliations other than Sikeston. According to Holmes, between Portageville, Scott City and Cape Girardeau they already have 34 National Champions.

"It's my first time there so there's a little bit of weight on my shoulders to try and bring home some medals," Holmes said. "We've got some catching up to do. But, we're going to try and bring home a National Championship to Sikeston."